Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Jane Gentry: "On a Perfect Day"

... I eat an artichoke in front
of the Charles Street Laundromat
and watch the clouds bloom
into white flowers out of
the building across the way.
The bright air moves on my face
like the touch of someone who loves me.
Far overhead a dart-shaped plane softens
through membranes of vacancy. A ship,
riding the bright glissade of the Hudson, slips
past the end of the street. Colette's vagabond
says the sun belongs to the lizard
that warms in its light. I own these moments
when my skin like a drumhead stretches on the frame
of my bones, then swells, a bellows filled
with sacred breath seared by this flame,
                                                        this happiness.

"On a Perfect Day" by Jane Gentry, from A Garden in Kentucky. © Louisiana State University Press, 1995.

Art credit: "The tall ship Cisne Branco (Brazil) sails past Lower Manhattan" (May 23, 2012), photograph by Reena Rose Sibayan/The Jersey Journal  (originally color).


Monday, September 29, 2014

Richard Schiffman: "Before Language"

Brian Buckner Photography: Children & Young People in Recreation &emdash; Silhouette Of A Splashing Child Playing In A Fountain of Water, Shreveport, Louisiana

Up from the fountain
the babble of children,
drenched with surprise. Alive!
The rain of their syllables
does not strain to speech,
their glottal whoops and yells
never jell to full-fledged
words or phrases.
Parents hover bird-like
by their brood. Parents fan
and fan their little flames.
And I, alone, the childless one,
sit purposeless, yet not in vain.
Before language was, the rain.
Children’s voices pouring
from the sky. I close my eyes
and let it wash my dust.

"Before Language" by Richard Schiffman. Published in Sunstone Magazine (December 2012). Presented here by poet submission. © Richard Schiffman.

Art credit: "Silhouette Of A Splashing Child Playing In A Fountain of Water, Shreveport, Louisiana," photograph by Brian Buckner.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Mike Balisle: Untitled ["In moonlight"]

                                                   In moonlight
                                                   The tips of trees
                                                   In quiet commotion

Untitled ["In moonlight"] by Mike Balisle, from Bonesteel. Presented here by poet submission. © Mike Balisle, 1977.

Art credit: "Last night's moon shines through tree branches tossed by wind," photograph by Bob King (originally black and white).

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Ellen Bass: "And What if I Spoke of Despair"

And what if I spoke of despair—who doesn’t
feel it? Who doesn’t know the way it seizes,
leaving us limp, deafened by the slosh
of our own blood, rushing
through the narrow, personal
channels of grief. It’s beauty
that brings it on, calls it out from the wings
for one more song. Rain
pooled on a fallen oak leaf, reflecting
the pale cloudy sky, dark canopy
of foliage not yet fallen. Or the red moon
in September, so large you have to pull over
at the top of Bayona and stare, like a photo
of a lover in his uniform, not yet gone;
or your own self, as a child,
on that day your family stayed
at the sea, watching the sun drift down,
lazy as a beach ball, and you fell asleep with sand
in the crack of your smooth behind.
That’s when you can’t deny it. Water. Air.
They’re still here, like a mother’s palms,
sweeping hair off our brow, her scent
swirling around us. But now your own
car is pumping poison, delivering its fair
share of destruction. We’ve created a salmon
with the red, white, and blue shining on one side.
Frog genes spliced into tomatoes—as if
the tomato hasn’t been humiliated enough.
I heard a man argue that genetic
engineering was more dangerous
than a nuclear bomb. Should I be thankful
he was alarmed by one threat, or worried
he’d gotten used to the other? Maybe I can’t
offer you any more than you can offer me—
but what if I stopped on the trail, with shreds
of manzanita bark lying in russet scrolls
and yellow bay leaves, little lanterns
in the dim afternoon, and cradled despair
in my arms, the way I held my own babies
after they’d fallen asleep, when there was no
reason to hold them, only
I didn’t want to put them down.

"And What if I Spoke of Despair" by Ellen Bass, from Mules of Love: Poems. © BOA Editions, 2002.  

Art credit: "Red Moon," photograph by Michael T., taken June 6, 2012, in Dimmick, Illinois.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Naomi Shihab Nye: "Words When We Need Them"

                                             Before this early moment,
                                             another, ripe with rain,
                                             the scent of its own full shape.

                                             Each day the rooster
                                             we have never seen
                                             raises the first greeting
                                             and darkness which holds us
                                             in its loose pocket all night
                                             sets us down.

                                             Now we walk,
                                             waking up rooms,
                                             switching on lights.

                                             Into the breath,
                                             wordless but ripe
                                             with all possible words,
                                             messages not yet gathered
                                             or sent.

                                             Morning looms,
                                             more friend than
                                             the best friend.

                                             We could still say.

"Words When We Need Them" by Naomi Shihab Nye, from Red Suitcase: Poems. © BOA Editions Ltd., 1994.  

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer (originally black and white).


Thursday, September 25, 2014

John O'Donohue: "The Inner History of a Day"

No one knew the name of this day;
Born quietly from deepest night,
It hid its face in light,
Demanded nothing for itself,
Opened out to offer each of us
A field of brightness that traveled ahead,
Providing in time, ground to hold our footsteps
And the light of thought to show the way.

The mind of the day draws no attention;
It dwells within the silence with elegance
To create a space for all our words,
Drawing us to listen inward and outward.

We seldom notice how each day is a holy place
Where the eucharist of the ordinary happens,
Transforming our broken fragments
Into an eternal continuity that keeps us.

Somewhere in us a dignity presides
That is more gracious than the smallness
That fuels us with fear and force,
A dignity that trusts the form a day takes.

So at the end of this day, we give thanks
For being betrothed to the unknown
And for the secret work
Through which the mind of the day
And wisdom of the soul become one.

"The Inner History of a Day" by John O'Donohue, from To Bless the Space Between Us: A Book of Blessings. © Doubleday, 2008.

Art credit: "Sunlight through a window," photograph by creolumen.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wendy Mnookin: "At Sea"

At the end of the jetty.

Where the boats come in. Where the boats go out. At the pile of rocks
that swallows the sun at the end of the day.

At the turn of the trail. At the last dune.

In front of the hot-dog stand. At the door to the pub. By the shanty, the
shipbuilder's yard, the discarded yellow boots, the smashed clam shells.

You thought I'd give in to despair.
But today is today, everywhere I look. And I look everywhere.

"At Sea" by Wendy Mnookin, from The Moon Makes Its Own Plea: Poems. © BOA Editions, 2008.

Art credit: "Jetty," photograph by Kaidohmaru*, taken at "a Swedish lake" on November 12, 2008 (originally color).


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hilda Morley: "Sea-Map"


Taste of salt on my fingers,
                                                   that’s how
I like it:
                the line of sea rising
above the dark-green pine,
                                                  the sea meeting
the horizon,
                        so always the eyes are lifted higher,
                        the pulse buoyed upward
with them
                    So it
should be for us all—
                                         to belong to
whatever moves us outward into
the wideness, for journeying,
                                                      tales of
distant places,
                              treasures piled
                              to fill our smiling,
                                                                for us to know of
along the travelled coastline,
                                                      the mountains
we can climb to,
                                each port,
                                                      each harbor
another window to wash our faces in,
                                                                                pull us
                  & made for us,     made for
all of us,
                    as the birds know, who
fly the continents,     the oceans
for their secret reasons,
                                             a map of the earth
written inside their bodies,
under their breastbones:   
                                               a continuance
of the now most fragile,         
                                                 always travelled
patiently enduring world

"Sea-Map" by Hilda Morley, from Cloudless at First. © Moyer Bell, 1995.

Art credit: "Where the sea and sky meet," photograph by Saira (originally color).

Monday, September 22, 2014

Stephen Dunn: "Sweetness"

Just when it has seemed I couldn’t bear   
   one more friend   
waking with a tumor, one more maniac   

with a perfect reason, often a sweetness   
   has come   
and changed nothing in the world   

except the way I stumbled through it,   
   for a while lost   
in the ignorance of loving   

someone or something, the world shrunk   
   to mouth-size,   
hand-size, and never seeming small.   

I acknowledge there is no sweetness   
   that doesn’t leave a stain,   
no sweetness that’s ever sufficiently sweet ....   

Tonight a friend called to say his lover   
   was killed in a car   
he was driving. His voice was low   

and guttural, he repeated what he needed   
   to repeat, and I repeated   
the one or two words we have for such grief   

until we were speaking only in tones.   
   Often a sweetness comes   
as if on loan, stays just long enough   

to make sense of what it means to be alive,   
   then returns to its dark   
source. As for me, I don’t care   

where it’s been, or what bitter road   
   it’s traveled   
to come so far, to taste so good.

"Sweetness" by Stephen Dunn, from New and Selected Poems 1974-1994. © W. W. Norton & Company, 1995.  

Art credit: Detail from "Man in purple shirt receiving bad news on phone," photograph by Patricia Hofmeester (originally color).


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Janet Jerve: "Now"

When you try
to stay in it
you notice the cat
wander into your yard
hear yourself say to yourself
I don't want a cat
she skims your legs
in out around
making a figure eight
you pick her up
cradle her spine in the crook of your arms
get a good look at her face
black skin marking the line of her cat lips
forming a perpetual smile
stay you say stay and you look for her
here here here wherever you are

"Now" by Janet Jerve, from Excavation. © North Star Press, 2013. Published here by poet submission.

Art credit: "Tabby cat rubbing against owner affectionately," photograph by © (originally color).


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Kasey Jueds: "Claim"

Once during that year
when all I wanted
was to be anything other
than what I was,
the dog took my wrist
in her jaws. Not to hurt
or startle, but the way
a wolf might, closing her mouth
over the leg of another
from her pack. Claiming me
like anything else: the round luck
of her supper dish or the bliss
of rabbits, their infinite
grassy cities. Her lips
and teeth circled
and pressed, tireless
pressure of the world
that pushes against you
to see if you're there,
and I could feel myself
inside myself again, muscle
to bone to the slippery
core where I knew
next to nothing
about love. She wrapped
my arm as a woman might wrap
her hand through the loop
of a leash—as if she
were the one holding me
at the edge of a busy street,
instructing me to stay.

"Claim" by Kasey Jueds, from Keeper. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2013. 

Art credit: Detail from untitled image by unknown photographer (originally color).


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wendell Berry: "1996, V" ["Some Sunday afternoon, it may be"]

[Note: If you can't see the viewer above, please click here to watch the video.]

Some Sunday afternoon, it may be,
you are sitting under your porch roof,
looking down through the trees
to the river, watching the rain. The circles
made by the raindrops’ striking
expand, intersect, dissolve,

and suddenly (for you are getting on
now, and much of your life is memory)
the hands of the dead, who have been here
with you, rest upon you tenderly
as the rain rests shining
upon the leaves. And you think then

(for thought will come) of the strangeness
of the thought of heaven, for now
you have imagined yourself there,
remembering with longing this
happiness, this rain. Sometimes here
we are there, and there is no death.

"1996, V"  ["Some Sunday afternoon, it may be"] by Wendell Berry, from This Day: New & Collected Sabbath Poems 1979-2012. © Counterpoint, 2013.

Art credit: "Kayden + Rain," video by ; soundtrack music, "In My Arms," by Jon Foreman.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Nina Alvarez: "If You Could Be Soft"

If you could be soft in what you are. In what you’ve felt in the world.

If you could release, just for a moment, how he held you, or how the kids should have come home.

If you just put down the can of paint. Listen.

All along you’ve been waiting. A couple long sighs, a piece of the way things wave and you’re off.

Have you considered much what it is to sit on the lawn. What is under your fingers, what is under your hands. And how to live an agreeable life, and how much it takes in a night to get through what you must first get through in order to just sit here and be happy.

"If You Could Be Soft" by Nina Alvarez. Published online at the poet's website, July 7, 2010. © Nina Alvarez.  

Art credit: Untitled photograph by Allison Carmody (originally color).


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ingrid Wendt: "Give Us This Day"

Just as everyone knows the end might come without warning
Any morning, the usual intersection and someone running the light,
Or maybe a gun in the cafeteria. Suitcase exploding. Fuselage
Simply missing one simple bolt. And we know not
To dwell on these thoughts, to survive.

Just as when my older friend was dying, and knew it, saying
I've learned what I wish I'd known all my life, and I wanted to
Know her secret and didn't ask, so sure of having one last chance.
This much I've learned: Savor it. This daily bread.
What if this were our last day alive?

So, too, you with your own secret ticking, lab tests predicting
Tomorrow the beats all of us count on could stop.
With proper exercise, diet, maybe
Not for a year. Or two.
Or more.

Each moment, remember. Each moment, forget.
Systole. Diastole.
Push. Pull.
Dear one,
whose heart knows and won't tell.

"Give Us This Day" by Ingrid Wendt. Published online by Weber Studies (Winter 2004). © Ingrid Wendt.

Many thanks to subscriber Mark Palinski for suggesting this poem for our collection.  

Art credit: "Beating Heart," fractal manipulation by Celemiri.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Linda Gregg: "A Dark Thing Inside the Day"

So many want to be lifted by song and dancing,
and this morning it is easy to understand.
I write in the sound of chirping birds hidden
in the almond trees, the almonds still green
and thriving in the foliage. Up the street,
a man is hammering to make a new house as doves
continue their cooing forever. Bees humming
and high above that a brilliant clear sky.
The roses are blooming and I smell the sweetness.
Everything desirable is here already in abundance.
And the sea. The dark thing is hardly visible
in the leaves, under the sheen. We sleep easily.
So I bring no sad stories to warn the heart.
All the flowers are adult this year. The good
world gives and the white doves praise all of it.

"A Dark Thing Inside the Day" by Linda Gregg, from All of It Singing. © Graywolf Press, 2011.

Art credit: "Doves fly in formation outside the farm," photograph by Rich Cooley/Northern Virginia Daily (originally color).

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Jeanne Lohmann: "Shaking the Tree"

                         Vine and branch we’re connected in this world
                         of sound and echo, figure and shadow, the leaves
                         contingent, roots pushing against earth. An apple
                         belongs to itself, to stem and tree, to air
                         that claims it, then ground. Connections
                         balance, each motion changes another. Precarious,
                         hanging together, we don’t know what our lives
                         support, and we touch in the least shift of breathing.
                         Each holy thing is borrowed. Everything depends.

"Shaking the Tree" by Jeanne Lohmann, from Shaking the Tree: New and Selected Poems. © Fithian Press, 2010.  

Art credit: "Apple Picking in Julian, CA," photograph likely by Marlena Maidhof (originally color).

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Gary Margolis: "Consider Yourself"

Consider yourself
the way you would the wind.

Allow sun to approach you
so the rain can follow.

This will include caring
for things inside
of things.

Let some blossoms suppose
they are playing
into your hands,

As a rule stones will sing,

Give what you can,
what you have been given,
what you have to give.

"Consider Yourself" by Gary Margolis, from Raking the Winter Leaves: New and Selected Poems. © Bauhan Publishing, 2013. Presented here by poet submission.

Art credit: "The Autumn Wind," acrylic on canvas, by Elena Kotliarker.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Billy Collins: "Aimless Love"

This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.

In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor's window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.

This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.

The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.

No lust, no slam of the door—
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.

No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor—
just a twinge every now and then

for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.

But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.

After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,

so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.

"Aimless Love" by Billy Collins, from Aimless Love: A Selection of Poems. © Random House, 2013.

Art credit: "Sudsy Soap Dish," photograph from the website Coastal Plain Soap Company (originally color).


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Adam Zagajewski: "Try to Praise the Mutilated World"

                                Try to praise the mutilated world.
                                Remember June’s long days,
                                and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
                                The nettles that methodically overgrow
                                the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
                                You must praise the mutilated world.
                                You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
                                one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
                                while salty oblivion awaited others.
                                You’ve seen the refugees heading nowhere,
                                you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
                                You should praise the mutilated world.
                                Remember the moments when we were together
                                in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
                                Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
                                You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
                                and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
                                Praise the mutilated world
                                and the gray feather a thrush lost,
                                and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
                                and returns.

"Try to Praise the Mutilated World" by Adam Zagajewski. Translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanaugh. Written more than a year before the terrible events of 9/11. Published in The New Yorker, September 24, 2001. 

Photography credit: Photograph from a series entitled "Photos: America commemorates 11th anniversary of 9/11 attacks" (8 of 14), by AP/Jason DeCrow (originally color). Caption: "Roses and a flag left by mourners adorn the names of victims of 9/11 during a ceremony marking the 11th anniversary of the attacks at the National September 11 Memorial at the World Trade Center site, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012, in New York."


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Norman MacCaig: "Small boy"

He picked up a pebble
and threw it into the sea.

And another, and another.
He couldn't stop.

He wasn't trying to fill the sea.
He wasn't trying to empty the beach.

He was just throwing away,
nothing else but.

Like a kitten playing
he was practicing for the future

when there'll be so many things
he'll want to throw away

if only his fingers will unclench
and let them go.

"Small boy" by Norman MacCaig, from The Poems of Norman MacCaig. © Birlinn, 2009.

Art credit: "Fun at the beach on a glorious day," photograph by WILLSIE (originally color).